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Infertility & Reproduction Health Center

Household Chemicals Linked to Early Puberty, Infertility

Group Pushes for New Laws, More Study on Common Chemicals
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Limiting Exposure to Chemicals

Seattle-based mom Molly Gray does not need any more convincing. She had two miscarriages before giving birth to her son. Despite eating organic food, steering clear of fish high in mercury, and using green cleaning products, her blood tested high for 13 toxic chemicals, including mercury, when she participated in a study during her pregnancy.

"As clean as I tried to be and as hard as I tried, I was still exposed to many chemicals known to have toxic effects," she says. As of now her 1-year-old son appears perfectly healthy. "My concerns are the unknown," she says. "We have no idea what the long-term results are."

There are things that people can do today to lower their exposure levels if they are concerned, says Tracey Woodruff, PhD, MPH, an associate professor and director of University of California - San Francisco's Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment.

These chemicals and their residue can also be found in dust, so keeping the house clean can help lower exposure, Woodruff says.

Giudice routinely discusses these issues with her patients, but tries to frame it in a non-alarmist sort of way.

"We are very careful not to be alarming unless there are really strong data," says Giudice.

For example, the risks of mercury exposure during pregnancy are fairly well known, and women are counseled to limit their exposure during pregnancy by avoiding fish high in mercury.

"Most patients are very motivated as parents or potential parents and are very receptive on how to minimize their exposure and maximize their health during pregnancy and the health of their baby," she says. "We don't know when the exposure may occur and feeling guilty is not the thing we want to instill in these patients."

Role of Congress

Andy Igrejas, the national campaign director for Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families in Washington, D.C., says many states are addressing these issues with laws designed to protect consumers from the potential health effect of toxic chemicals. "There has been quite a bit of momentum and a handful of states have passed policies that are more comprehensive and designed to move away from toxins and chemicals," he says.

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